Battlefield performance of the Tiger II (King Tiger)

Discussions on the vehicles used by the Axis forces. Hosted by Christian Ankerstjerne
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cbo
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Post by cbo » 08 Apr 2004 21:28

Christian Ankerstjerne wrote: Certainly - better drive train.

Just for the record, the speed of the Tiger II was:
Maximum speed: 41.5km./h.
Sustainable roadspeed: 38km./h.
Sustainable cross-country speed: 15-20km./h.
(Germany's Tiger Tanks: VK 45.02 to Tiger II)

Jagdpanther:
Maximum speed: 30km./h.
Sustainable roadspeed: 20km./h.
Sustainable cross-country speed: 15km./h.
(Merkblatt 75a/20)
I doubt that these two sources are in fact comparable. The Tiger II figures are from technical specifications and the comparable figures for the Panther/Jagdpanther are (Spielberger: "Der Panzer-Kampfwagen Panther.."):

Maximum speed: 46 km/h
Sustainable roadspeed: 33km/h
Sustainable cross-country speed: 25km/h

The figures quoted in the Jagdpanther manual may be more realistic, but I doubt they are comparable with the technical data. 75/20a was not a technical manual but a field manual dealing with the deployment of the Jagdpanther in combat.
It would also seem rather strange that the Panther and Jagdpanther who weighed nearly the same and shared all their automotive components would have drastically different performance!

One problem the Tiger II shared with the later production Tiger I was the damage to track, roadwheels and suspension arms caused by the use of steel-rimmed roadwheels:

- The clearance between the roadwheels and the centerguide on the track was too small to accomodate the differences in individual roadwheels.
- The suspension arms were loaded unevenly which caused them to react differently to wear
- Only the inner part of the track was carrying the load, leading to bending of the track-pins, making the track stiff and would eventually cause the track to sever or lock.

As for the Soviet tests (http://www.battlefield.ru/library/books ... pons7.html), it was concluded by 1945 that the Tiger II had the following....:

Shortcomings:
The chassis is complex and is not durable.


It is unclear to me what they mean by that?

The steering mechanism is complex and expensive.

A 70-ton tank needed an advanced steering system in order to function properly in the field and the cost was apparently considered acceptable by the Germans. They tried to do the Panther steering on the cheap and that was not a particular succes...!

The side running gear is extremely unreliable.

I suspect this would refer to the final drives of the Tiger II. If so, it was a feature it shared with other overweight German tanks like the Hetzer and Panzer IV as well as the Panther. In the latter, you can point to a faulty design, in case of the other two, the cause was likely a combination of the tanks having gained 25-50% since their basic components had been designed and the use of inferior materials in production. The Tiger IIs produced prior to July 1944 apparently had faulty final drives as well, the problem being corrected in late June 1944.

The radius of action is 25% inferior to the "IS"-tanks.

Hardly surprising given that the Tiger ran on petrol and weighed an additional 25 tons...

The ammunition (except in the turret recess) is awkwardly located.

Possibly, but then again: The Tiger II carried 22 rounds in the easily accessible turret rack while the IS-II only carried 28 rounds, period. The Tiger had an additional 48 rounds in the hull for a total of 70. The real problem was that penetrations in the turret would lead to ammunition fires and causing the loss of the tank and possibly the turret crew. At least one Tiger unit stopped using the turret racks because of this (sPzAbt 501).

The excessive size and weight of the tank do not correspond to the tank's armor protection and firepower.

A good point, but seems to reflect a difference in overall design philosophy rather than any particular flaw in the Tiger II design....?

As for the Jagdpanther-Tiger II comparison, the Jagdpanther was probably less reliable than the Tiger II. At least the combat reports of Jagdtiger units reads like a mechanical horror story and there are reports of at least one Tiger II battalion doing a 250 km roadmarch without any serious mechanical mishaps (sPzAbt 503 Oct. 1944).
This is a much more happy story than that of sPzAbt 501 - the same unit referred to by http://www.battlefield.ru/library/battles/battle16.html - who had most of the battalions tanks brake down due to failure of the final drives during a 40-50km roadmarch in August 1944. Could be that the battalions Tigers had the early type of final drive because they apparently recieved a modified unit soon after (Jentz: "Germany's Tiger Tanks: VK 45.02 to Tiger II", Schneider: "Tiger im Kampf").

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Post by cbo » 08 Apr 2004 21:41

Rommel8 wrote:what was the Tiger II's turret traverse speed?
The powered traverse used a hydraulic motor taking its power from the transaxle running between the engine and gearbox under the turret. Traverse speed was dependant on engine RPM and ranged from 36 seconds (at 1000 rpm) and 19 seconds (at 2000 rpm) for 360 degree traverse. IIRC the engine could be revved to 2500 rpm, so it could probably turn a little bit faster than 19 seconds.

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Post by Andreas » 09 Apr 2004 12:55

cbo wrote: The excessive size and weight of the tank do not correspond to the tank's armor protection and firepower.

A good point, but seems to reflect a difference in overall design philosophy rather than any particular flaw in the Tiger II design....?
I don't think so Claus. The size and weight are clearly related - for a given amount of armour protection, a bigger tank will weigh more. The problem here could be that the size of the tank was driven by the engine size (and this is a self-reinforcing problem - bigger engine = bigger tank = more armour plate = more weight). If the Germans had been able to build small high-performance engines, they would probably have built smaller tanks. Having seen a Panther, and a T34, from close-up, or even the Jagdpanther and the T34/85 next to each other in the IWM, I think that this part of the criticism is very valid, and can not be explained away with design philosophy.

For its armour protection and gun, the Panther as well as the King Tiger were just too big and too heavy. If it was design philosophy, then it was a very silly one. My guess is that technical factors forced the size. Soviet tank design had its flaws, but they certainly knew how to make small, well-protected and armed tanks (for the time of the construction - clearly by 1943 the T34 was becoming outdated).

If you really think it was design philosophy, then I think it would be important to think about the advantages gained by the higher weight, and larger size (storage space for ammo, comfort of the crew, etc), compared to the disadvantages (easily spotted, restricted movement, high cost of production, over-use of resources, slower speed, higher fuel consumption, mechanical reliability issues etc.). I don't think the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. The construction of small, crammed Panzerjaeger vehicles shows that at least some German tank designers also did not think they do.

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Post by Christian Ankerstjerne » 09 Apr 2004 13:14

To some degree is especulation, but it would explain the excelent "on paper" performace of the KT in the info you gave.
However it wouldn't explain the exellent actual performance, would it?
Do you got any source that states that only the first 5 were defective? are you sure the problems in the Panther were solved after just 5 production samples?
Not only the first five, the majority of Tiger IIs from the first 45 of the s.Pz.Abt. 501 (which which the tested Tiger II originated) had factory (not design) defects.
Also, I never stated that only the first five Panthers had problems.
Yes, but you assumed that the Jadpanthers were going to be surprised
No - I stated that it would be easier to outflank the Jagdpanther than the Tiger II - a tank can perfectly well be outflanked even if it's not surprised, especially when it has no turret.
and defective or poorer armor on the other end.
The Tiger IIs armour could still keep out a out most of the main tank guns at reasonable ranges - furthermore, the Russian armour quality changes very much, even on the same vehicle.
According to battlefield.ru in the battle where those KT were captured 10 KT broke down in a 3 kms march, I don't think especulation will be huge.
Again, the Tiger IIs were from a defective batch, and you are still speculating at that. You don't know how far they had driven prior to this.
I do know that there weren't that many skilled drivers in Germany anymore but you do expect some sort of training in such a unit, and I haven't read something like this about a PzIV for example or late Panthers.
There was a wide difference in the amout of training. If a unit was ordered back for change from Tigers to Tiger IIs, they would usually have time to have some training, but other times the crews would have no training with Tiger IIs at all...

As for the extremely low roadspeeds stated in the Russian report, I have seen a video clip of Tiger IIs clearly driving faster than that.
what was the Tiger II's turret traverse speed?
In addition to Claus comment, the Tiger II had a special device was installed which enabled it to traverse 360 degrees in nine seconds for emergency purposes.

Claus
You may be right on the different numbers. I don't have a similar report for the Tiger II, so I can't compare the numbers.

In Merkblatt 47a/30, it does state that the recommended speed during march at day was 10-15km./h. and at night 7-10km./h. It was furthermore recommended that a maintenance check was made after the first 5km., and after that every 10-15km.
I don't think so Claus. The size and weight are clearly related - for a given amount of armour protection, a bigger tank will weigh more. The problem here could be that the size of the tank was driven by the engine size (and this is a self-reinforcing problem - bigger engine = bigger tank = more armour plate = more weight). If the Germans had been able to build small high-performance engines, they would probably have built smaller tanks. Having seen a Panther, and a T34, from close-up, or even the Jagdpanther and the T34/85 next to each other in the IWM, I think that this part of the criticism is very valid, and can not be explained away with design philosophy.
Still, this would also relate to design philosophy - the Russians tried to make their tanks as small as possible, however this affected ergonomics. This would, in turn, result in slower operation.

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Post by F/PAUL » 09 Apr 2004 13:24

The power of the 88mm KWK 43 tank gun mounted on this tank was truly awsome. It was capable of knocking out any allied or soviet tank at 1500 to 2000 meters range. The extremely thick frontal armor was invulnerable to any allied anti-tank weapon. Considering that only 489 were built, it managed to distinguish itself quite well.

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Post by Andreas » 09 Apr 2004 14:07

Christian Ankerstjerne wrote:
Still, this would also relate to design philosophy - the Russians tried to make their tanks as small as possible, however this affected ergonomics. This would, in turn, result in slower operation.

Christian
Christian - to clarify. I think that it was driven by the inability to produce small engines with sufficient power. So it was a necessity, not a philosophy (the latter to me implies choice - I do not think the German designers had any).

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Post by Alejandro_ » 09 Apr 2004 14:24

Christian
However it wouldn't explain the exellent actual performance, would it?
Well, if you want to state this tank's performance as excellent is fair enough, but in my opinion, the KT was a 69 metric tons unreliable and thirsty vehicle that kept breaking down.

If in some conditions it was succesfully employed it was in a deffensive situation or using the surprise factor, yes, it had an extraordinary gun but that's simply not enough.

In that Russian report some of the critics include the design, which is the same for all vehicles produced. If it's underpowered and thirsty it's going to be for all of them.
As for the extremely low roadspeeds stated in the Russian report, I have seen a video clip of Tiger IIs clearly driving faster than that.
Do you know the conditions when this video clip was recorded?

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Post by Christian Ankerstjerne » 09 Apr 2004 15:13

Christian - to clarify. I think that it was driven by the inability to produce small engines with sufficient power. So it was a necessity, not a philosophy (the latter to me implies choice - I do not think the German designers had any).
The Germans certainly did pay attention to ergonomics when designing their tanks. For example, the 8.8 cm Panther-Schmalturm was to have a turret ring diameter 100mm. larger, even though this would give an increased weight of one ton.
Well, if you want to state this tank's performance as excellent is fair enough, but in my opinion, the KT was a 69 metric tons unreliable and thirsty vehicle that kept breaking down.
I can't prevent you from thinking that, but noone seems to be able to prove that thesis.
Do you know the conditions when this video clip was recorded?
Not the exact conditions, however it is a rgass field, and the dirt is soft enough for the tracks to leave very visible marks.

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Post by cbo » 09 Apr 2004 15:32

Andreas wrote:
cbo wrote: The excessive size and weight of the tank do not correspond to the tank's armor protection and firepower.
A good point, but seems to reflect a difference in overall design philosophy rather than any particular flaw in the Tiger II design....?
Andreas wrote: I don't think so Claus.
I do. Soviet tanks were designed to be as small and light as possible and suffered in various ways: crew size, ergonomics, ammunition load, armour protection etc.
The reason the IS-II was much smaller than the Tiger II was due to deliberate choices made by the designers. The Soviets were wiling to sacrifice the 5th crewmember and ammunition load in order to achieve the smallest possible size and weight. The Germans were willing to sacrifice weight and size to maintain their traditional layout and to store a lot more ammunition. I suspect ergonomics would also be much better in the Tiger II.
Andreas wrote: The size and weight are clearly related - for a given amount of armour protection, a bigger tank will weigh more. The problem here could be that the size of the tank was driven by the engine size (and this is a self-reinforcing problem - bigger engine = bigger tank = more armour plate = more weight). If the Germans had been able to build small high-performance engines, they would probably have built smaller tanks.
This does not seem to add up. The Germans managed to pack more power in less space than the Soviets (T34 100hp/0.7m3; Panther 100hp/0.55m3; IS-II 100hp/0.8m3; Tiger II 100hp/0.65m3). The Germans also managed to extract about the same amount of power from their engines pr. weight unit as the Soviets and a much higher output pr. unit of displacement (partly due to one being diesel and the other gasoline, I suppose). If you look at the ratio of fighting compartment to engine compartment, the Panther and Tiger also allocated a lot more space to the former than in Soviet tanks. This allowed for more crewmembers, better workspace and more ammunition, but all this had to be protected so weight went up.
Andreas wrote: For its armour protection and gun, the Panther as well as the King Tiger were just too big and too heavy. If it was design philosophy, then it was a very silly one. My guess is that technical factors forced the size.
Good guess - I think the problem is that you are wrong. And a design philosophy is a design philosophy whether you agree with it or not. :)
Andreas wrote: If you really think it was design philosophy, then I think it would be important to think about the advantages gained by the higher weight, and larger size (storage space for ammo, comfort of the crew, etc), compared to the disadvantages (easily spotted, restricted movement, high cost of production, over-use of resources, slower speed, higher fuel consumption, mechanical reliability issues etc.). I don't think the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.
I think you confuse matters here. The German tanks were big and heavy because their design philosophy emphasized parameters that lead to larger vehicles. That was a sacrifice they were willing to make. The Soviets emphasized other design parameters that had them sacrifice fighting compartment size. Whether you agree with the choices made is irrellevant - the differences are still rooted in design philosophy.

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Post by Alejandro_ » 09 Apr 2004 18:57

Christian
However it wouldn't explain the exellent actual performance, would it?
Well, you have just given me some data.

The russian report gives a full account, specifies the sample, the conditions, the data... it's only one (actually 2) but some of the points are very fair.

Best regards.

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some of you may have seen this..

Post by James Tainton » 10 Apr 2004 03:22

some of you may have seen this at Missing links- others perhaps not..
http://www.network54.com/Hide/Forum/thr ... 1078050784

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Post by Christian Ankerstjerne » 10 Apr 2004 12:48

Thanks for the link, Panzerboy!

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Post by Blistex » 12 Apr 2004 07:42

Nobody's mentioned this yet but the whole unreliability of german tanks myth originated from 2 primary sources.

1. The Panther's performance at the onset of Kursk.

2. US and Russian tanks had a life expectancy 1/10th that of German tanks.

Since the Germans overall were better tankers with better tanks it only makes sense that they would lose more tanks to mechanical failure than the allies since the allies could expect a tank to be destroyed a few weeks after it left the factory while it wasn't uncommon for German tanks to be over a year old.

Besides, nobody seems to remember that the earlier T-34's used to leave the factory with an extra transmission chained to the back end since it was so prone to failure.

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Post by Andreas » 13 Apr 2004 22:44

Claus

You obviously know more about the matter than I do. I remain unconvinced however, based on the arguments I have read here.

I admit that is almost certainly ignorance, because tank design books are not even making my reading list.

The key point for me remains - could the Germans have mass-produced a small engine with the required power output, if they had tried? If the answer is no, (and I do not think that your point about horsepower/size ratio addresses it), then the additional space is something that came for 'free', if you follow my line of thinking, and could as well be used for something helpful (ergonomics, additional crew/ammo), because it was there anyway.

But had they been able to produce a small high-power engine, would they still have chosen to make big tanks? I doubt it. Bigger than the Soviet tanks, probably - but as big as the King Tiger and the Panther, probably not. But as I said - I admit you know more about it then I do, I probably just haven't come across the right bit of data to show me how wrong I am.

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Post by cbo » 14 Apr 2004 08:27

Andreas wrote: The key point for me remains - could the Germans have mass-produced a small engine with the required power output, if they had tried?
They tried and they succeded, Andreas. They put just as much power in their engines pr. weight unit and space unit as the Soviets and the Americans, in some cases a lot more.
Andreas wrote:If the answer is no, (and I do not think that your point about horsepower/size ratio addresses it), then the additional space is something that came for 'free', if you follow my line of thinking, and could as well be used for something helpful (ergonomics, additional crew/ammo), because it was there anyway.
I cannot really follow your line of thinking, I have to admit. There was nothing preventing the Germans from reducing the size of the fighting compartment in their tanks if they had choosen to drop the 5th crewmember and reduce the ammo load to, say, 30-40 rounds. They could probably also have saved some space in the fighting compartment by putting the transmission in the rear and made other arrangements to reduce interior space in the fighting compartment but they didn't because they choose not to. And that had nothing to do with engine size, but was a deliberate design choice.
Andreas wrote: But had they been able to produce a small high-power engine, would they still have chosen to make big tanks? I doubt it. Bigger than the Soviet tanks, probably - but as big as the King Tiger and the Panther, probably not. But as I said - I admit you know more about it then I do, I probably just haven't come across the right bit of data to show me how wrong I am.
I know the data that proves you wrong - I would be much more interested if you would show me the data that would prove you right. Something that would suggest that German tank engines required significantly more space for less output than the ones used by the Soviets.

I wonder whether your ideas about the German tank engines relates more to the earlier types used in the Panzer III and IV? If so, you have to remember, that the HL230 used in the Tiger and Panther was a considerable improvement over these, as power was more than doubled while wieght only increased by 50% while size apparently remained nearly the same.

On a side note, I'd say the main problem the Germans had with their tank engines were a high fuel consumption compared with the Soviet V12 diesel and a lack of torque at low RPM compard with both the Soviet V12 and the US GAA V8, which had to be compensated for by having a more gears and do more shifting. And then there was of course some serious reliability issues with the HL230 during the first year or so of its career.

Claus B

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